Appendix 2: Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance

​​The Department of Agriculture has a statutory requirement under section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiver​sity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) to report on:

  • our contribution to ecologically sustainable development (ESD) through our outcomes and activities
  • the environmental performance of our internal operations.

Ecologically sustainable development principles

The principles of ESD outlined in section 3A of the EPBC Act are that:

  • decision-making processes should effectively integrate both long-term and short-term economic, environmental, social and equity considerations
  • if there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation
  • the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations
  • the conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration in decision-making
  • improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms should be promoted.

Our contribution to ecologically sustainable development through our outcomes and activities

Our outcomes embody the ESD principles:

  • Outcome 1: More sustainable, productive, internationally competitive and profitable Australian agricultural, food and fibre industries through policies and initiatives that promote better resource management practices, innovation, self-reliance and improved access to international markets.
  • Outcome 2: Safeguard Australia’s animal and plant health status to maintain overseas markets and protect the economy and environment from the impact of exotic pests and diseases, through risk assessment, inspection and certification, and the implementation of emergency response arrangements for Australian agricultural, food and fibre industries.

We play a leading role or contribute to national and international policies with significant ESD objectives. We deliver programmes to fund research, training and projects aimed at mitigating climate change and improving sustainable resource management. Our role in biosecurity is critical to maintaining biodiversity in Australia and overseas. We also deliver funding to community organisations and to the portfolio research and development corporations whose work includes activities supporting ESD.

Our work supports the goal of development that meets Australia’s current needs while conserving our ecosystems for the benefit of future generations.

Our key activities in 2014–15 are outlined in Part 3: Repo​rt on performance​.

Legislative responsibilities

The following legislation, administered by the department under the current Administrative Arrangements Order, contributes directly to ESD:

  • Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Act 1994
  • Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Administration) Act 1992
  • Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Code Act 1994
  • Fisheries Administration Act 1991
  • Fisheries Management Act 1991
  • Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012
  • Quarantine Act 1908
  • Natural Resources Management (Financial Assistance) Act 1992
  • Primary Industries and Energy Research and Development Act 1989
  • Regional Forest Agreements Act 2002.

Environmental impact of our operations

Energy efficiency

Our central office buildings in the Canberra CBD maintain a base building rating of 4.5 stars under the National Australian Built Environment Rating System. Both buildings contain T5 energy efficient lighting and movement sensors, which turn off lighting in office areas after hours. The buildings also contain energy efficient window blinds, which reduce the energy required to heat and cool the buildings during the day. We acknowledge the importance of green energy in the electricity contracts for our Canberra buildings. These contracts include a 10 per cent allocation of green power through the whole-of-government electricity contract.

As shown in Figure 9, over the three years to 30 June 2014 the department’s electricity and gas consumption was and in the range of 50 000 to 54 000 gigajoules. In 2014–15, our energy consumption (excluding diesel and petroleum products) reduced by 9 per cent to 48 015 gigajoules, because of changes in accommodation and a continued focus on installing electrical devices to meet a changing operational environment.

Figure 9 Energy consumption, 2010–11 to 2014–15

This graph shows the department’s consumption of gas and electricity for the past five years:  In 2010–11, energy consumption was 50 922 gigajoules.  In 2011–12, energy consumption was 50 376 gigajoules.  In 2012–13, energy consumption was 53 421 gigajoules.  In 2013–14, energy consumption was 52 744 gigajoules.  In 2014–15, energy consumption was 48 015 gigajoules.   

Transport

We monitor the fuel consumption and kilometres travelled for all fleet vehicles and encourage drivers to purchase ethanol blended fuel (E10) where possible. As existing fleet vehicle leases reach expiry, staff are asked to consider replacing these with efficient hybrid or diesel vehicles where this is operationally practical. We currently lease seven hybrid vehicles in our fleet nationally.

In 2014–15, the department consumed 20 103 gigajoules in transport fuels for passenger vehicles. Figure 10 shows a continuing downward trend in transport energy consumed over a five-year period. This in part reflects the department’s changing operational environment, resulting in decreased usage of official vehicles.

Figure 10 Transport energy consumption, 2010–11 to 2014–15

This graph shows the department’s consumption of diesel and petroleum products for the past five years:  In 2010–11, transport energy consumption was 29 000 gigajoules.  In 2011–12, transport energy consumption was 33 108 gigajoules.   In 2013–14, transport energy consumption was 28 388 gigajoules.  In 2013–14, transport energy consumption was 25 377 gigajoules.  In 2014–15, transport energy consumption was 20 103 gigajoules.   

We consistently exceed the target set under the Commonwealth Green Vehicle Guide (GVG) for half of all fleet vehicles to have a GVG rating of 10.5 or above by 2020. The department’s fleet of 415 vehicles averages a GVG rating of 13, and 384 vehicles, or 92 per cent of the fleet, exceed the 10.5 GVG rating. We encourage staff to consider a variety of personal transport methods to reduce emissions, including cycling and public transport.

Water conservation

Our central office buildings recycle and capture stormwater to flush all toilets. In bathrooms and change rooms, we have waterless urinals, water saving shower heads, infrared motion-active hand basins and 4A-rated dual flush toilets. These initiatives contribute to reducing our reliance on the local water supply.

Waste management

We continue to encourage good recycling practices, providing ready access to segregated waste streams in the office environment. Recycling bins are located throughout central office buildings in kitchens and common areas and include general waste, organic recycling and co-mingled recycling.

The organic waste stream is a unique feature of our central office buildings and can be used to dispose of compostable materials and foodstuffs. Through this process, all organic waste from all levels of the participating buildings is collected and relocated off-site and then processed into mulch for further use. This reclaims usable materials and reduces the quantity of general waste from these sites.

As shown in Figure 11, in 2014–15 the amount of organic waste captured fell to 7.65 tonnes. Organic waste collection and reduction of the general waste stream remains a focus.

Figure 11 Organic waste collected 2010–11 to 2014–15

This graph shows the amount of organic waste captured and processed in the past five years:  In 2010–11, the department captured 7.9 tonnes of organic waste.  In 2011–12, the department captured 8.4 tonnes of organic waste.  In 2012–13, the department captured 9.2 tonnes of organic waste.  In 2013–14, the department captured 9.3 tonnes of organic waste.  In 2014–15, the department captured 7.6 tonnes of organic waste.   

The co-mingled recycling programme continues to be well supported in the Canberra offices. As shown in Figure 12, we collected and processed 54 tonnes of co-mingled recycling.

Figure 12 Co-mingled recycling collected 2010–11 to 2014–15

This graph shows the amount of co-mingled recycling collected in the past five years:  In 2010–11, the department captured 11 tonnes of co-mingled recycling.  In 2011–12, the department captured 14 tonnes of co-mingled recycling.  In 2012–13, the department captured 64 tonnes of co-mingled recycling.  In 2013–14, the department captured 74 tonnes of co-mingled recycling.  In 2014–15, the department captured 54 tonnes of co-mingled recycling.   

Engaging staff through ECONet

The department supports staff efforts to promote ecological sustainability at work and at home.

On World Environment Day, 5 June 2015, acting secretary Phillip Glyde launched the Environmental Contact Officers Network (ECONet). The ECONet is a network of staff volunteers who work to promote environmentally friendly and sustainable office practices to improve the department’s environmental footprint, reduce resource consumption and save money. Members also encourage their colleagues to think about ways to reduce their individual impact on the environment.

Membership is open to all departmental employees and the ECONet has enlisted senior managers to champion its activities.

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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